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FLASHBACK: Chelsea’s £1billion match… how Jesper Gronkjaer’s strike set Blues on course for glory

As Chelsea look to secure Champions League football for next season with a victory over Liverpool tonight, Frank Lampard can look back to 2003 and the ‘£1billion match’ for inspiration.

The two teams were tied on 64 points heading into the final day of the season as Gerard Houllier took his Liverpool side to Stamford Bridge for a game which would decide who would take the precious fourth place.

At the time it was dubbed the ‘£20million match’ but in reality Chelsea’s 2-1 victory was worth so much more as Roman Abramovich made the decision to buy the club for £140million weeks later.  

Champions League football was paramount to the Russian billionaire’s decision to buy the London side. Had Liverpool been victorious, Abramovich may have taken his money elsewhere.

But Jesper Gronkjaer’s winning strike ensured the Blues would go on to become the Premier League’s most successful club in the last 17 years. 

Sportsmail takes a look back at the game, its repercussions and how Lampard’s side can look to invoke the spirit of 2003 at Anfield tonight.

He might not make a list of Chelsea legends but Jesper Gronkjaer is arguably one of the most important players in the club’s recent history.

With an inferior goal difference, Liverpool had to beat the Blues and Houllier’s side raced into an early lead as Sami Hyypia headed them in front inside 11 minutes. That was not part of Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri’s plan. 

But things quickly got back on track as Gronkjaer fired in a cross for team-mate Marcel Desailly to head in off the post two minutes later.

However, Gronkjaer’s finest moment came in the 26th minute. 

The Dane picked up the ball on the right-hand corner of the penalty area, shrugged off a weak challenge from John-Arne Riise and curled an exquisite shot around the helpless Jerzy Dudek.

Liverpool thought they had equalised in the 77th minute but Milan Baros was pulled back for handball after finding the back of the net.

Chelsea held on as Steven Gerrard saw red in the final stages after picking up a second yellow card for a late foul on Graeme Le Saux.

The Blues were victorious in the £20million match, but the arrival of a new owner and the years of spending that followed mean it was probably worth closer to £1billion. 

The financial consequences of Chelsea missing out on Champions League football in 2003 would have been huge.

The club’s chief executive Trevor Birch reportedly addressed the team at half time to emphasise the danger of losing the match – costs would have been cut and the big-money signings in the years that followed would not have been possible.

Roman Abramovich was said to have been captivated by the Champions League after watching Manchester United’s 4-3 victory over Real Madrid earlier that year and is believed to have inspired him to buy a football club.

Would he have chosen Chelsea had they not secured qualification for the competition? It seems unlikely. Maybe he would have decided to try his luck at Liverpool had the score been reversed.

With Abramovich’s money, the Blues quickly went on a spending spree ahead of the 2003-2004 season as over £100million went on bringing in players such as Damien Duff, Hernan Crespo and Joe Cole. 

Jose Mourinho replaced Ranieri ahead of the 2004-2005 campaign and with him arrived the likes of Dider Drogba, Petr Cech, Arjen Robben and Ricardo Carvalho.  

Chelsea won six trophies during Mourinho’s first stint in charge including two Premier League titles, two League Cups and the FA Cup. 

Though there have been some years of comparatively lower spending, Luiz Felipe Scolari was given significantly less funds in 2008, Abramovich has consistently delivered in the transfer market – excluding last summer when the club were banned from signing new players.

The arrival of £53million man Timo Werner from RB Leipzig and constant links to the in-demand Kai Havertz appear to signal the Russian owner means business once again.  

Chelsea won’t be able to deny Liverpool a place in the Champions League tonight with the Reds having already been crowned Premier League champions.

In fact, Frank Lampard’s side will have to watch on when Jordan Henderson lifts the trophy after the full-time whistle.

But the Blues will look to spoil the party by inflicting a first home defeat in 58 games on Jurgen Klopp’s team and Lampard can look back to 2003 for some inspiration.

Chelsea’s record goalscorer was part of the starting XI for the historic match and his assistant Jody Morris was an unused substitute.

Lampard went on to lift three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, two Charity Shields, the Champions League and Europa League trophy during his time in a blue shirt.

And the 42-year-old is now hoping he can repeat that success as the club’s manager and the young boss appears to be building an exciting team at Stamford Bridge.

But before he can think about winning trophies he must ensure the Blues qualify for next season’s Champions League. 

Beating Liverpool would be a sweet way to ensure their place among Europe’s elite but they will have another opportunity on the final day against Wolves should they be held or beaten by the Reds this evening.

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